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That Weight On Your Chest, It’s Crushing Your Heart

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The first time it happened, Tony was halfway convinced that it was a bizarre dream.

“Hey kid,” Tony started, leaning back in his chair and throwing a ball up in the air.

“Oh! Mr. Stark!” Peter exclaimed, sounding surprised.

“Uh yup, that’d be me. Were you expecting someone else?” He asked dryly.

“Ah, actually, yes. Can I call you back?” Peter rushed out before promptly hanging up.

Tony stared at the screen in front of him, barely flinching when the ball he’d just thrown came back down to smack him in the shoulder. “Did he just hang up on me?” He questioned disbelievingly, eyebrows sky high and pointing an accusing finger at the screen.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Parker has disconnected the call,” Friday answered.

Tony rolled his eyes and sent the ceiling a withering glare. “Thanks for your wonderful input,” he muttered.

When Peter called back several hours later, Tony waited for it to go to voicemail. There, now he was busy. Little shit.

He took some satisfaction out of knowing that he would at least have a rambling, stupidly apologetic message waiting for him to soothe his bruised ego. Petty? Tony Stark? Never.

After forcing himself to continue working on his current nanotech project for another hour, he finally let himself listen to Peter’s message.

“Friday, play the kid’s voicemail.”

“Hey Mr. Stark, just calling back to see if you still needed anything. Uh, guess I’ll talk to you later!” Peter’s voice came through sounding awfully cheery.

The screwdriver fell out of Tony’s limp hand as a weight settled on his chest.

What the hell was all this about? Where was the Peter Parker who jumped at every chance to talk to him? Who worshipped him as his own personal superhero/science god? Who was annoyingly apologetic about every imagined slight?

“Friday, replay the message,” he barked. Was the kid in distress? Drunk? Impaired in some other way?

After many replays and overanalyses, Tony had to admit that Peter was fine, he just suddenly seemed to...not care.

Well, surely Peter just had other things going on in his life right now. He was in college now, it was to be expected, Tony reasoned with himself as he rubbed his hand absently against his chest.

.

It wasn’t a one-time thing. It was hit or miss whether he’d be able to reach Peter by phone at any given moment.

But Peter always returned any calls he missed and made sure to check in regularly on his own, which eased the sting.

Then, six months later, Peter missed his monthly trip down to work with Tony in the lab. For a trip with his friends. Which was great, of course! Peter had friends his own age and was doing normal college things. These were all good things. Tony kept reminding himself of this fact as he sat down with some takeout at the table in the penthouse that Friday evening.

His leg bounced up and down manically as he stared down at his food. Pull yourself together, he snarled mentally. It’s not like this was different from any other day. Meetings all day, dinner by himself (if he remembered to eat), then working in the lab until he was about to collapse from exhaustion. Just another Friday.

An hour later, he hadn’t moved from the table but neither had he eaten anything. As the light waned outside, that gnawing anguish that had been simmering in his gut was rising to engulf him.

God, he was pathetic. All this because some kid would rather hang out with his friends having fun instead of working with a middle-aged man?

A drink sounded good right about now.

But no, he’d quit drinking a year ago. He’d gotten rid of every hidden bottle of alcohol (with Rhodey’s aggressive help) and implanted a chip in his arm that was directly connected to Friday, who would shut down all access to his facilities and contact Rhodey or Pepper if his BAC got above 0.06.

He was Tony Stark, for fuck’s sake. If he wanted company, he’d damn well have it. Therefore, he obviously didn’t need it or he wouldn’t be alone. That made sense right?

So what if Peter was the only one who was still able to maintain that level of respect and admiration even after getting to know the real Tony Stark? He may not have seen him at his worst, but he’d seen enough to send most people turning tail in disgust. But Peter still thought he was kind, that he always tried to do the right thing, even if he was a bit misguided at times. He acknowledged that Tony had flaws, big ones, but he just respected him even more for managing to overcome them (most of the time).

Or he used to.

Tony settled his bouncing leg again as he glanced at the clock. It was barely 8:00PM. He shot out of his chair and grabbed a hoody and sunglasses before stalking out the door.

.

An hour later Tony was staring down at a paper bag with several handles of liquor on his kitchen counter. A glass tumbler sat next to it, ice cubes shifting as they melted.

He picked up the bag and walked to the trash can at the end of the counter. He stared down into the empty bin then at his white-knuckled grip on the bag.

Tony wasn’t a quitter. Well, except for quitting the alcohol in the first place. He wasn’t about to quit on quitting. He released his grip, hearing the full bottles jolt to the bottom of the bin.

He made his way to the fridge and got a glass of water, downing it like a shot.

His gaze pulled to the trash can but he forced it away, heading towards his lab. Nothing a few hours of mindless work won’t cure.

.

If there was one thing that Tony knew about himself, it was that he always fucked up, no matter how good his intentions.

It wasn’t long before he found himself digging the liquor out of the trash can, uncapping the scotch and taking a long drag straight from the bottle. He watched disinterestedly as blood trickled down his forearm from where the BAC chip used to be, before he’d gouged it out.

The sad thing was, desperately digging through the trash for alcohol? Not the lowest point in his life. Not by far. But it’s been a long time since he’d been here.

.

Tony was sitting on the couch when his phone chirped with the alarm he’d set to remind him to leave the lab at a somewhat decent hour on Peter weekends. But Peter wasn’t here so what the hell did he need it for? He fumbled with it, trying to shut it off, unsuccessfully.

With a roar, he threw the phone as hard as he could at the wall.

He watched the shattered pieces fall to the ground as he took another drink.

.

“Tony, I’ve been calling you for hours - where the hell have - oh. God,” Rhodey gaped as he came into the penthouse, catching sight of Tony slumped on the couch.

“Ah, yeah, bit of an incident last night,” Tony muttered, motioning towards the broken remains of his StarkPhone.

“And I suppose you disabled alerts from Friday?” he asked dryly, face hard.

Tony scoffed. “She was being annoying. ‘Do I need to call someone, sir?’ ‘You should probably stop drinking, sir’,” he mocked.

“She was right,” Rhodey said flatly.

“I know that. That’s why it was annoying,” Tony responded, with a self-deprecating grin. He lifted a bottle of - whiskey? Maybe? - to his mouth, but Rhodey snatched it out of his hand before he could take a proper swig, causing him to slosh it down his front. “Hey!”

“You need a shower anyway, Tony. You’re disgusting,” Rhodey said, pulling him up off the couch and shoving him towards his room.

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony grumbled as he shuffled off to shower.

When Tony returned to the living room, feeling slightly more human if not still a little drunk, he found that Rhodey had already cleared away all the alcohol and was sitting at the counter. Waiting.

“Ugh. Can we just...not?” Tony groaned.

“Nope, that’s not an option.”

“So I fell off the wagon. Not like it’s the first time this has happened,” Tony muttered as he fell heavily into the seat next to Rhodey.

“But why? You were doing so well, Tony. What happened?” Rhodey implored.

Tony shrugged, looking away to stare at the clock.

“Bullshit,” Rhodey snapped.

“I don’t wanna talk about it!” Tony burst.

“Yeah, well I don’t give a damn. Either you talk to me or you talk to someone else. Do you need to be under surveillance again?”

“I’m not a fucking child - I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Well you could have fooled me!”

The two sat glaring harshly at each other for several long moments before Rhodey dropped his head in his hands with a sigh.

“Tones, I’m worried about you, man,” he said softly, rubbing his eyes. “I thought we were past this; I thought things were better.”

Tony deflated. “They were,” he insisted.

“Until they weren’t anymore,” Rhodey finished for him.

Tony shrugged again.

“I just -“ Tony started, but he was cut off by a call through the penthouse. “Mr. Stark?”

Tony’s heart leapt in his chest. He scrambled to his feet. “Kid?”

Peter rounded the corner, a smile lighting up his face when he saw them. “Hey! I’m sorry I missed this weekend, Mr. Stark. I thought I’d swing by real quick on our way home though.”

Tony’s head was spinning. He felt like he could breathe a bit better now. “You’re already heading back? It’s just Saturday afternoon.”

“Mr. Stark, it’s Sunday! Have you been that busy?” He laughed.

Peter’s smile started to fade as he took in the tense silence and the odd look on Tony’s face. “Oh. Was I interrupting something?” he asked hesitantly.

“No!” Tony practically shouted.

Rhodey had started saying, “Actually…” but stopped abruptly to stare at Tony.

Peter’s eyes darted uncomfortably between the two men. “Um, I’m sorry. For coming unannounced. I’ll just...head out now,” he said, pointing awkwardly at the door.

“No, no, it’s fine. Please, stay - you know you’re welcome anytime you want. Anytime,” Tony rambled, somewhat breathless. He was getting odd stares from both sides now.

Darting a look at Rhodey, who was still sitting stiffly and silently, Peter rubbed at the back of his head. “Ah, actually, I’ve got my, uh, friend waiting for me so I should probably get going anyway. I just wanted to say hi.”

“Your friend, huh? This the one that’s been taking you away from me?” Tony asked, tone forcibly light.

Peter flushed. “Mr. Stark…” he trailed off, looking guilty and uncomfortable.

“Why don’t you bring him up, Pete? We can all have lunch!” Tony said.

Peter opened his mouth to protest again but closed it. “O-okay,” he murmured, turning around and heading back for the door.

As soon as they heard it close, Rhodey turned to Tony incredulously. “What. The fuck. Was that?”

“What? I was just being nice,” he replied nonchalantly as he sat back down. There was a feeling of elation tingling through his veins.

“Nice? That’s what you thought that was? I’ve never seen Peter more uncomfortable. And that’s saying something!”

“Yeah, because you were being incredibly rude! You kept glaring at him.”

“I was glaring at you, numbnuts. Because I thought you were trying to get out of this very important  conversation,” Rhodey clarified. “Although now I’m thinking there’s more to it than that.”

“Oh give it a rest already, would you?” Tony scoffed, standing up again and circling around the island.

“‘This the one that’s taking you away from me’ Tony? Really, did you think that was subtle?” Rhodey asked.

Tony didn’t answer, concentrating hard on grabbing a glass and filling it with water.

“It’s a good thing he has his own life, outside of all this superhero bullshit.”

“I know that; I want him to have that. I do,” Tony insisted.

“I mean, I guess it’s somewhat normal for parents to feel a bit abandoned when their kids start having their own life. But he’s not your kid, Tony.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s definitely not a problem. I’m no one’s father, and quite happy about that fact. At least not that I’m aware of,” Tony said, eyebrows waggling.

Rhodey rolled his eyes. “Okay, then what’s your hang up with Parker?”

Tony was silent for a long moment. Too long, it turned out, because Peter was walking back into the room, friend in tow.

“So, this is my, um, friend, Harry,” Peter introduced, gesturing to the tall, dark-headed kid next to him.  “And this is Mr. Stark and Colonel Rhodes,” he finished, indicating the men across the kitchen.

Harry came towards them, hand outstretched and smile wide.  “Wow, it’s so great to meet both of you! I’ve heard so much!”

Tony and Rhodey both reached out to shake the boy’s hand.  “Well, you know you can only believe half of what you hear, at the most,” Tony said teasingly.

“Of course, of course,” Harry laughed obligingly, nodding.

“So, what were you boys up to this weekend?” Rhodey questioned.

“Oh, well my parents have a place over near Rochester.  It’s kind of a long drive, but I’ve been wanting to take Peter and we finally had a free weekend where we weren’t completely swamped. So we….” Harry continued talking, but all Tony heard was static as the boy stepped back to Peter’s side and put a casual hand at the small of his back, like it just belonged there.  

Tony aimed to collapse into his chair when his knees started feeling a little wobbly.  But he missed, and barely caught himself before falling flat on his ass. “Fuck,” he mumbled, levering himself into his chair properly.  It took him almost a full minute to realize that the conversation had stopped and...yep, everyone was staring at him again.

Peter was looking at him with a mixture of concern and secondhand embarrassment.  “Are you okay, Mr. Stark?”

“Oh, yeah, just peachy.  Just, ah, think it’s been a while since I’ve eaten anything.”  Which was true. Since apparently it was Sunday and he drank all of Saturday away.  

“Oh, let me make you something to eat,” Peter insisted, rushing around into the kitchen until Rhodey laid a hand on his arm.

“I’ve got it, Peter.  Stay out here with your guest.  Tony, do you even have any food in this place?” Rhodey called as he rounded the kitchen island.

“Uhhhh,” Tony answered eloquently.  He had no idea.

“Good God, Tony,” Rhodey grumbled, going to check the fridge.  Tony could see over his shoulder that it was pleasantly full. Ah, right, it was supposed to be a Peter weekend, so he would have had someone stock the kitchen.

“Looks like we’ve got the stuff for a stir fry.  That’d be easy, if that sounds good to everyone?” Rhodey announced.  After a chorus of affirmations, he started pulling everything he needed out of the fridge and the pantry.  

“So, how’s school going?” Tony asked into the still somewhat awkward silence.

Peter perked up as he started telling him all about his classes and the projects he was working on.  “And Harry’s been a huge help! He had most of my professors last year so he’s been able to give me a lot of pointers,” Peter gushed, looking up at Harry brightly.  Harry grinned back and laid a hand on Peter’s hip.

Tony felt like he’d been stabbed in the gut.  So he really had been replaced, in every way. This boy was his new mentor, his new friend, his new crush, which apparently was requited.  Was there anything left for Tony? That weight settled back on his chest, compressing his lungs and choking the breath out of him.

When his vision refocused, he noticed Peter was looking at him to contribute something to the conversation.  “That...that’s great, kid. I’m glad everything is going so well for you,” Tony said with a small smile. Without me he thought, massaging his chest like that would help.

Rhodey finished up lunch shortly after that and they all sat down at the table to eat.  Tony hardly heard any of the conversation, too busy watching Peter watch Harry.

Peter insisted on clearing everyone’s plates when they were finished.  He came back with a stiff smile on his face. “Well we should probably be heading out.  Harry, would you mind waiting for me downstairs? I’ve got a few things I need to talk to Mr. Stark about.”

“Yeah, of course, Peter.  It was really nice meeting you guys!” he called as he left.

Peter sat back down at the table as Rhodey got up to walk to the bathroom.  “You were drinking again,” he said quietly, looking at Tony with agonized eyes.

“No, I wasn’t,” he immediately rebuked.  “I’m just feeling a little under the weather.”

“I saw the bottles in the trash, Mr. Stark.”

Tony looked away.  “You never told me you got yourself a boyfriend,” he shot back.

“It’s...new.  And, honestly, I didn’t think you cared about stuff like that,” Peter responded, shrugging.

“How could you think I don’t care about anything about you?” Tony asked beseechingly.  “I…” he trailed off and covered his mouth when he realized what he’d been about to say.  “Shit, sorry, I’m still a little drunk.”

Peter gave him a puzzled look, having a hard time following Tony’s jumps in the ‘conversation.’  “Yeah, about that. Is-is this...my fault? Are you drinking because of me?”

Tony couldn’t stand the cautious, hurt look on Peter’s face.  “No, no sweetheart, it’s not your fault.” Tony grabbed his hand across the table.  “You know you’re not responsible for me, right?” he implored.

“But you’ve taken such good care of me all these years and I-I wanna return the favor.”

Tony shook his head.  “No, kid, I didn’t do anything I’ve done expecting something in return.  Even though I’m not making the best case for it now, I’m the adult here, you know,” he said with a crooked grin.

“But I’m an adult now too, Mr. Stark.  Why shouldn’t I help you if I can?” Peter insisted.

“You do help me, just by being around.”

“Well, then I’ll come by more often,” Peter responded firmly.

Tony sat back in his chair, letting go of Peter’s hand and taking a drink to buy himself a moment.  He wanted that. He wanted it so bad, his bones ached with it. He grit his teeth and took a deep breath before he acted like the adult he claimed he was.  “No, Peter. You’ve got school and friends. And a boyfriend now! Look at you! You’re only in college for a few years - take full advantage of it. Keep your priorities straight.”

“But Mr. Stark…” Peter said desperately.  

“I’m a big boy, Pete, I can take care of myself.  And I’ve got Rhodey, he knows how to handle my sorry ass.  I may be a little rough right now, but I’ll be fine. Now go get your boyfriend. You should probably get back on the road before it gets too late,” Tony said as he stood up.

Peter followed his lead as Tony walked him to the door.  “I miss you, Mr. Stark,” he whispered before throwing his arms around Tony.

Tony felt his expression crumble as he hesitantly returned the hug.  “I miss you, too, kid.” He had to clench his teeth together to stop himself from saying anything else.

Peter finally pulled back with a wobbly smile.  “Okay, well, I’ll see you in a couple weeks, right?” he said as he opened the door.

“Yeah, of course.  Drive safe, Pete.”

“Always do!” Peter responded with a wave before turning around and leaving.

Rhodey came out of the hallway as Tony laid his hand on the door, leaning heavily against it.

“Jesus, Tony.  When did this happen?” Rhodey asked softly.

Tony gave a humorless laugh.  “I don’t fucking know. I didn’t realize how much I...needed him until suddenly he didn’t need me anymore.”

“What do you mean, you need him?” Rhodey asked cautiously.

Tony shook his head.  “You don’t want to know,” he said lowly.

“Just tell me, man.”

Tony was silent for several minutes before he snapped, “I need him to need me, to idolize me, to want me.  I need to be the center of his fucking universe.”

“That’s fucked up,” Rhodey finally said.

Tony snorted.  “Don’t I know it.  I’m not a good person, everyone knows this.”

“But then why did you send him away?  He would have stayed,” Rhodey said.

Tony looked at him incredulously.  “Seriously? Why would you encourage this?”

“I’m not.  Just trying to figure this shit out.  If you’re such an egotistical, selfish bastard, why’d you do that?”  Rhody reasoned.

“You really don’t want to know that one,” Tony said, sitting down on the couch with his head in his hands.

Rhodey studied him.  “Dammit, Tony. Are you serious?  You’re more than twice his age!”

“Oh fuck off, Rhodey.  Why do you think I’ve been drinking myself stupid?  I didn’t even fully realize it until this weekend. You know I’m an idiot when it comes to...feelings,” he said, spitting out the word like it was a curse.  He thought of what he’d almost said to Peter at the table earlier. I love you.  Fuck.

“Well,” Rhodey sighed, “you did the right thing.”  He sat on the couch next to Tony, clapping him on the shoulder.

“So, now what?” Rhodey ventured after several minutes of heavy silence.

Tony rubbed at his chest as he sat back with a sigh.  “I fuck up, pick myself up, and move on. Hope there are enough broken pieces left to put together.”



Chapter Text

Peter was testing Tony’s very limited capacity to be a good person.

He really should have seen this coming - Peter may be an obedient puppy dog most of the time, but if he thought Tony’s orders got in the way of solving a problem he had the capacity to fix, then he could be a stubborn, sneaky shit.

Despite his insistence that Peter not concern himself with Tony’s problems, Peter was suddenly much more present in his life. Which was its own unique form of torture. He couldn’t exactly refuse his requests to talk on the phone or come down to the lab after being so adamant about him being welcome anytime. But the closer they became again, the more intense his attachment (read: obsession) got.

Tony was still trying to get a handle on his twisted possessive streak for his protege. He was adamant in his insistence to Rhodey that day that his feelings toward Peter weren’t romantic or sexual. And he was…pretty sure this was true. It was just very unhealthy.

Other mentors felt this way about their favorite students, right? Granted, Tony was a bit unorthodox in just about every way, but…

Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear, Tony thought wryly as he saw Peter entering the kitchen.

“There you are, Mr. Stark,” Peter said with a tired smile.

“Here I am,” Tony parroted back, gesturing to himself before leaning back against the island, a glass of water in hand. He set the glass down on the counter and stepped forward when he actually looked at Peter and noticed his expression.

“Hey, what’s going on, Pete? You alright?” he asked, setting a hand on Peter’s shoulder as he crouched a bit to try to catch his lowered gaze.

Peter dragged his eyes up to meet Tony’s and just stared at him, looking lost and frustrated. “Ughhh,” he groaned, pitching forward to rest his forehead on Tony’s shoulder. “It’s stupid,” he mumbled into Tony’s t-shirt.

Tony was concentrating hard on being able to breathe normally as the hand on Peter’s shoulder slowly slid to cup the back of Peter’s neck. “If it’s got you this upset, kid, it’s not stupid. Well, okay, it could be, but I’m willing to pretend it’s not since you’re my favorite,” he amended, his mouth twitching when he got the small huff of a laugh he’d hoped for.

Peter was quiet for another long moment before he finally said, “I just…I wonder if it’s even possible to have a meaningful relationship. I mean, as a superhero. Especially since I’m keeping my identity secret, it’s a prerequisite that I’ll be lying about a huge part of my life to whoever I’m with and that’s just not working for me.”

Tony sighed as his other hand came up to card through Peter’s hair. “Well, you won’t always have to keep your identity a secret. You’re planning on a big ‘coming out’ after college, right?” Peter snorted and nodded. “Until then, just have fun. And if you happen to find the right person, maybe you can tell them a little earlier if it’s really causing problems.”

“But even after other people know, I don’t know if it will work. I already have a hard time relating these parts of my life with May and Ned and MJ. They get it but they don’t get it, you know?” Peter said, sounding frustrated.

“Yeah, yeah I know,” Tony answered quietly. He knew too well. It was the biggest part of why he and Pepper couldn’t keep it together.

Peter huffed. “So, what do I do?”

“I’m still trying to figure that out myself,” Tony replied a little too honestly.

Peter stepped forward fully into Tony’s space, arms coming around Tony’s waist in a hug. Tony’s hand spasmed in a tight grip to the back to Peter’s neck. He almost missed Peter’s soft inhale of breath as he shifted his own arms to pull Peter tight against him.

“I’m glad I have you, Mr. Stark,” Peter said softly, his breath tickling Tony’s neck.

“Always, sweetheart,” he murmured, hoping Peter couldn’t feel how hard his heart was pounding between them.

.

Tony wasn’t proud to admit it, but he’d hoped that after all that, it would mean that Peter had broken off whatever he had going on with that Harry kid. Not so, apparently.

But he kept up his attempts at being the best mentor he could, giving Peter his honest advice even when that sour twisting in his stomach intensified at every mention of his relationship. It was worth it for the grateful smiles he got in return.

One thing did change - Peter hugged him all the time now.  When Peter got to the compound, when he would leave the compound to go back to school, when they’d part ways to go to bed, sometimes for no discernible reason at all.  Usually, it was just a quick thing, a greeting.  But sometimes, Peter would wrap him up tight and not let go, grasp just short of painful as he sighed into Tony’s shoulder and the tension drained from his body.  

Tony lived for these short moments, where he could feel him warm and solid in his arms, smell the cheap shampoo in his hair.  Sometimes it was even enough.

But Tony used this as a doorway to being more tactile himself, to which Peter appeared to have no objection.  Then again, he’d always been grabbing Peter’s shoulder and getting into his space, so maybe Peter just didn’t even notice.  

The feeling of elation that sparked through him the first time he laid his hand on the small of Peter’s back and Peter just turned his head to look at him and smiled…it was pathetic, he knew it.  

It fueled his obsession, started eroding at his flimsy self-control.  Soon, Tony found himself gravitating towards Peter constantly; crowding him against the table or the counter, making himself a permanent fixture in Peter’s space as often as possible, flitting touches to his back, his neck, his hip.  It was a gradual process, careful as he was to not scare him away.

Even though his heart raced and his palms started sweating at the thought of Peter pushing him away in discomfort, he couldn’t stop.  Every time Peter let him closer, after the initial dizzying euphoria, Tony just wanted more.

.

“I’m sorry, say that again?” Tony said over the phone. He knew exactly what Peter had said, but he needed to buy himself a bit of time to school his reaction.

“I was just asking if I could bring Harry over again when I come Friday night. But I totally get it if that’s not okay!” Peter blurted nervously.

After a silence that was perhaps a beat too long, Tony replied, “Yeah, sure, kid. We don’t have any urgent projects, so that’s no problem.”

He could hear the smile in Peter’s voice when he responded. “Thanks Mr. Stark! This is gonna be so awesome!”

Tony consciously relaxed his tight grip on his chair. “For sure, yeah. Hey, Pete, hate to run but I gotta get back to…a thing.”

“Oh-oh yeah, of course, sorry Mr. Stark. I’ll see you this weekend. And thanks again!” he enthused.

Tony quickly closed out the phone call, head slamming back into his chair and eyes staring aimlessly at the ceiling. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Why was this still so hard? Peter had been seeing this guy for three months now so he should be used to it. And Peter’s interactions with Tony were almost completely back to normal.

Whatever. He pushed back from the table and looked around the lab, seeing the hood up on one of his cars in the corner. Getting elbow deep in engine parts sounded like a pretty good distraction right about now.

.

He was wrong. He was staring at an empty bottle of whiskey before the night was over.

.

Tony dreaded and longed in equal measure for Friday (and Peter) to come.

He’d been talking himself all day through proper ways to interact with Peter’s guest: don’t go overboard on the snarking, don’t ignore him completely, don’t try to glare holes into his skull, don’t punch him in the face anytime he looks at or touches Peter. Those were pretty basic rules of interaction - no problem. Because Tony Stark was known for his tact and handling people he didn’t like with grace and aplomb. Right.

He was in the lab when Friday announced, “Sir, Mr. Parker and his guest have arrived.”

Tony straightened, pinching the bridge of his nose before grunting, “Alright, tell him to come on down.”

“Understood, sir,” Friday replied.  

A few minutes later, Tony’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the bright smile on Peter’s face as he walked in.  “Mr. Stark!  Hey!”

“Hey there, kiddo.  Good trip?” he asked.

“Yeah!  Thanks again for letting me use the jet to get here - makes it so much easier,” Peter gushed, as he did every time he came since Tony had gotten that bright idea.  Tony felt a sliver of guilt because it was really for selfish reasons that he was intent on making it as easy as possible for Peter to get here.  But it was easily swamped by the flood of smug pride that came with showing how well he could provide for Peter.

“Yeah, dude, that was so awesome!  I’ve never been on a private plane before!”  Tony had to work to keep from scowling at the sound of Harry’s voice.  “And this lab!  Mr. Stark, this is incredible!  My dad would kill to have technology like this!”  Indeed, Harry was looking around in awe at all the projects in progress littered around the room.  Well, at least he could appreciate Tony’s awesomeness.

“Well, since you don’t technically have clearance to be here and I just realized why your name sounded so familiar, perhaps we’d better move this party back upstairs,” Tony said, with a tight smile straining the muscles in his face.  

Seeing the anxious look cross Peter’s face and knowing an apology was about to come pouring out of his opening mouth, Tony continued with a wink, “But maybe I can sneak you in a little later after dinner if you’re still interested.”

The relieved smile that Peter sent his way made it worth the effort.  It would be easier to distract and entertain them in the lab anyway.

It was only as they’d all turned to leave that Tony’s steps faltered.  Peter hadn’t given him his welcome back hug.  His thumb skimmed absently against his collarbone as he resumed walking.

.

Watching Peter’s and Harry’s easy interactions was his own personal brand of hell.  

As they sat and chatted in the living room, they took a seat on the couch opposite Tony, Harry’s fingers brushing against Peter’s shoulder from where his hand was hanging off the back of the couch.  Peter rested a hand against Harry’s thigh when he laughed at something he’d said.  But seeing as how they were both perfectly courteous and friendly, including Tony in all their conversations and asking him questions, Tony couldn’t find a plausible reason to complain.

When Friday finally announced that their dinner had arrived, Tony jumped at the chance to escape the happy couple for a few minutes.  “Thank God,” he muttered under his breath as he made his way to the kitchen.

He was so focused on pointedly putting all his concentration into getting the styrofoam containers out of their bags that he almost jumped when Peter came up next to him.

“Smells good.  Need any help?” Peter questioned.

Tony couldn’t resist pressing his hand to Peter’s hip for a long moment before nudging him towards the fridge.  “Nah, I’ve got this.  Why don’t you grab a couple drinks?”

Peter nodded before shuffling off that direction.  As Tony was looking down to finish getting the food together, he caught Harry’s eyes on him, watching.  Open floorplans meant no secrets.  Although it’s not like he did anything wrong.

He shook his head and brought the food to the table where Harry was sitting.  

“Bon Appetit,” he drawled as he laid out the containers.

“So the great billionaire Tony Stark entertains guests with Chinese takeout?” Harry remarked with a crooked smile.

Tony’s eyebrows shot up.  “Excuse me?  Not good enough for you, Princess?” he shot back.

Harry flushed lightly.  “No, of course not, sorry, that was rude.”

Before Tony could respond, Peter cut in as he came back with the promised drinks.  “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Stark’s just joking.  He tends to get snarky when he hasn’t eaten.”

“Only when I haven’t eaten?” Tony replied skeptically.

Peter rolled his eyes and firmly laid a bottle of soda in front of him with a pointed look.  Come on!  Like he was going to drink himself to death when Peter was actually here?  Tony rolled his own eyes back as he cracked open the top.

Peter dug in with a muted groan.  “Dude, isn’t this the best Chinese takeout ever though?”

Tony aimed a smug grin at Harry before starting in on his own portion.

.

Two hours later, after a full tour of the facilities and the lab, the trio sat back at the table for ice cream.

“Harry, you’re welcome to use the jet to get back home any time you’d like,” Tony mentioned.

Peter shifted nervously.  “Actually, Mr. Stark, we were thinking he’d just stay here with me this weekend.  There’s still so much I want to show him.”

Tony stiffened, every muscle in his body locking up.  “Sure, Pete.  Whatever you want.  Not like we don’t have the space,” he joked woodenly.

Tony could tell by the shared look between them that there was no intention of Harry using a separate room.  Fuck, he was not prepared for this.  Why was he not prepared for this?  They were all adults; it was objectively the most reasonable conclusion here. 

He pushed back from the table and stood up abruptly.  Both boys stared at him as he stood there gripping his bowl.  “Right, well I’ll get out of your hair for tonight.  You know where everything is, kid, help yourself,” he said unnecessarily as he turned to place his bowl in the sink.

He heard the screech of a chair, then Peter was at his shoulder.  “What’s wrong?  Are you alright, Mr. Stark?” he asked warily.

“Heartburn,” Tony muttered.  “You know how us old guys are with our crippling heartburn.”  Heartburn indeed.

Peter scoffed.  “Right.”  He shuffled his feet.  “Well, I really do appreciate you letting us hang out here.  I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than hang out with a couple college kids.”

“Not if one of those college kids is you, Pete,” he said with a shrug and a heavy pat to Peter’s shoulder.

Peter looked up at him for a long moment before stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Tony’s shoulders.  “Thanks anyway, Mr. Stark.”

Tony snaked his arms around Peter’s waist, turning his head to the side to nose lightly at Peter’s neck.  He was holding him tightly enough that he felt the faint shiver run through Peter’s body at the sensation.  But Peter didn’t pull away.  It made his blood roar in his head.  He suddenly wanted to bite that perfect, pale skin, hard.  Leave a mark.  His mark.

He closed his eyes and made himself pull back.  Peter’s eyes were still pinned on him in that earnest way he had that made Tony want to keep him to himself.  Before he realized what he was doing, his hand was carding through Peter’s hair softly.  He quickly turned it into a hair ruffle as he said gruffly, “Yeah, yeah, go play with your friend now, kid.”

As if he’d been waiting for Tony’s permission, Peter smiled wryly at him before turning back to the table.

Tony watched him walk off, catching Harry’s gaze again over Peter’s shoulder.  Tony could see the calculating look in his eyes and the tightened jaw before it melted away as Peter approached.

.

Tony felt like he was going to burst out of his skin.  Knowing that Peter and his boyfriend could be doing anything (everything) in his own house made him feel like he was going insane.

He couldn’t stop his brain from envisioning snippets of what they could be doing.  It was too easy to imagine what Peter would look like, breathless from deep kisses, a flush spreading from his face down his chest as hands ran down his body, mouth wide open and panting as he-

Tony realized with growing horror that he was getting hard.  Fuck.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.  No, he didn’t have sexual feelings for Peter.  It wasn’t like that.  He just…wanted to own him.  In every way, shape, and form.  Fuck.

On his next round of pacing through his suite, he found himself in front of the stash of alcohol that he’d moved in here the day before.  He’d promised that he wouldn’t drink when Peter was here, and he’d been keeping to that with minimal struggle until now.  

But just a few fingers of bourbon would help him chill out.  He wouldn’t get drunk.

.

Tony didn’t realize how far he’d gone until he heard the door to his living area slide open and Peter walked in.  “Shit,” he muttered, sitting up.

“Mr. Stark?  I’m sorry to bother you, I just wanted to-” Peter cut off and his lips pressed into a thin, hard line.

“What the fuck?” Peter snapped.

“Language,” Tony said absently.

“Seriously?  I know you call me a kid all the time, but you realize I’m not actually one, right?”

“Oh, yes, I know, believe me,” Tony groused, recalling the thoughts he’d been trying to drown out.  Definitely not things he would have been thinking about a child.

“Then stop treating me like one!  And why the hell are you drinking anyway?”

Tony pushed to his feet.  “Now you listen here.  Young man.” he started, pointing his finger in Peter’s direction.  “I am an adult in my own damn house.  I don’t need to explain myself to you.”

“Yeah, well I thought we were friends, and friends do need to answer to each other when they’ve fucked up,” Peter shot back.

Tony scoffed.  “So I had a drink, so what?  I’m not hurting myself or anyone else.  I’m not even drunk!”

“You’re swaying.  And I can smell the alcohol on you.  It wasn’t just a drink, Mr. Stark.”

Damn spider senses.  “Well, congratulations, Detective Parker.  But it’s still not your problem.”

“Why can’t you just talk to me?  You don’t normally do this when I’m here,” Peter said, frustrated.  “Or-or do you?”

Tony was shaking his head.  “Of course not, never when you’re here.”

Peter gestured at him incredulously.

“Well, never until now of course,” he allowed.

“I thought that having me around helped.  That’s what you said before.  Is that…not true?” Peter asked, looking surprisingly vulnerable.

Tony found himself stepping closer.  “It does, sweetheart, it really really does.  But that fucking-” Tony gathered his wits back before spitting out the insults he wanted to fling at that stupid boyfriend of his.

“Is it Harry?  I mean, I’d wondered if maybe you didn’t like him that much - you two seem to butt heads a lot.  You act like you’re being nice, but I can tell.  But you really hate him that much?  We can leave if it’s bothering you that much.”

“No, no, don’t leave.  It’s not that I don’t like him, necessarily…” Tony trailed off, trying to find something to say that wasn’t an outright lie.

“You guys are just too similar,” Peter said with a roll of his eyes.

“Excuse me?” Tony sputtered.  

Peter ignored him and went towards the alcohol stash that was now in plain sight, intent on getting rid of it.

Tony grabbed Peter’s wrist before he could get far.  “Are you gonna fuck him?  In my house?” he growled, the question escaping before he’d even realized he’d wanted to ask it.

Peter stared at him, aghast.  “Mr. Stark, that’s out of line.  And none of your business.”

“None of my business?  It’s my house!  And you’re-” he cut himself off, gritting his teeth.

“I’m what?  Just a kid?  You’d been having sex for years when you were my age, so I don’t want to hear it,” Peter said with a glare.

“That’s not- Whatever, just forget it.  You’re right, it’s none of my business.  I’m drunk.”  Tony sighed and dropped back down onto his couch, burying his face in his hands.

Peter tentatively sat next to him, hand resting lightly on Tony’s back.  “You know I…wouldn't do that, right?  I don’t think I even could if I wanted to - it’d be way too weird.”

Tony chuckled.  “Like having sex with your parents next door?”

Peter’s head tilted side to side consideringly.  “Not exactly what I was thinking, but yeah, sure.”

Tony desperately wanted to know what Peter had meant instead, but he kept his mouth shut.  He’d crossed enough lines today.

After a long moment of silence, Peter asked, “Would it make you feel better if we slept in different rooms?”

“Yes,” Tony said immediately, knowing it was the wrong thing to say.

“Why?” Peter asked curiously.

The words crowded up Tony’s throat, unwilling to be restrained.  “I can’t stand the thought of him touching you.  I can barely handle him looking at you like he does.”

He heard Peter’s sharp inhale.  “Like-like how?”

“Like he owns you,” Tony said bitterly.

“Maybe I like it that he looks at me that way,” Peter said quietly.

Tony was shaking with how much he wanted to lay hands on Peter.  “You want to be owned by that boy?” he growled.

“Do I have another option?” Peter asked shakily.

Tony turned towards him fully, hand coming up to wrap around the back of Peter’s neck.  “Always, sweetheart.  You can have anything you want.  Everything.” *

Peter’s lips parted, breaths heaving lightly as his eyes met Tony’s.

Tony blinked before standing abruptly, breaking the tension.  He stumbled blindly to the cart in the corner housing his collection of tumblers, grabbing the edges in a white-knuckled grip.  “You-” Tony rasped.  He cleared his throat.  “You should probably be heading back."

He heard Peter’s soft footsteps come closer and found himself holding his breath.  

“I’m sorry for not hugging you when I got here this afternoon, Mr. Stark.”

Tony’s breath escaped in a whoosh, like he’d been punched in the gut.  His grip relaxed and he turned towards Peter.  “Pete,” he began but cut off as Peter collided into his chest, arms clenched tight around his torso.

Tony was helpless to do anything but return the desperate embrace.  One hand buried itself in Peter’s soft hair while the other found where Peter’s shirt had ridden up.  He shoved it up further, fingers gripping hard and hot like a brand on the bare skin of Peter’s lower back.

Peter gasped softly and shuddered, lips brushing dryly where his face was pressed against Tony’s neck.  Tony groaned and swayed, leaning heavily back against the cart behind him. Peter stumbled and fell against him, between his legs.  

Tony’s heart was pounding, his head throbbing as his blood rushed south.  Fuck.  Fuck, he was too drunk for this.  He gathered the strength to break the embrace, pushing Peter back gently.  

“It’s late,” Tony said, averting his eyes.  “You should be getting to bed.”

He couldn’t bring himself to look up at Peter’s face as he stood there quietly before taking a deep breath.  “Yeah, yeah.  Of course.  But there’s something I’ve gotta do before I go.”

Tony’s heart jumped at the declaration as Peter moved closer again until he noticed him reaching around him.  Right.  The alcohol.  Of course Peter wasn’t going to leave him with that.

Peter made his way to the door of the suite, arms full of bottles.  “Well, goodnight Mr. Stark.  Please try to get some sleep,” he said before making his way out.

Tony leaned back wearily against the wall, sliding down to sit in a heap on the floor as he ran a shaky hand over his face.  What the hell had just happened?

.

Peter obviously wasn’t used to dealing with alcoholics if he thought that was the only alcohol around Tony’s room.  

It wasn’t long before he’d finally drunk enough to drown out his guilt for the thoughts he couldn’t get out of his head, passing out in the process.  

He was still sprawled across the couch come morning, never noticing Peter entering his rooms again and his resigned expression.  He didn’t even budge when Peter had a conversation with Friday for several minutes before leaving and returning shortly, jostling Tony around a bit before picking him up gently and moving him into bed.

He finally woke up around noon, lying motionless and staring at the ceiling before coming to a decision.  He couldn’t be here anymore.

Chapter Text

Half an hour later, Tony groaned as he mustered the energy to fumble up to a seated position at the edge of his bed. “Fuck,” he muttered to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

He heaved a sigh before pushing himself to his feet and stumbling to the bathroom. “Friday, what is Peter doing?” he questioned, absently rubbing at his aching back. 

“Mr. Parker is currently making lunch in the kitchen,” Friday responded dutifully. Tony noted this, figuring if he got his shit together quickly, he’d be able to leave out the back and avoid him. 

He was brushing his teeth when he dimly heard the door to his suite opening. Thinking more quickly than he would have thought possible in his current state, he mumbled incoherently through the toothpaste foam in his mouth for Friday to turn on the shower. She was able to correctly interpret and follow his command as Tony grumbled resentfully about how Jarvis would have known to warn him that Peter was coming to his room. 

As he’d hoped, the sound of the shower running kept Peter from inquiring after him, instead calling loudly through the door, “Hey Mr. Stark, I made lunch and thought you might be hungry so I brought you some. I guess I’ll just, um, leave it out here.”

Tony, standing near the door, heard Peter hesitate for a long moment, probably waiting for a response, before he finally turned around and his footsteps faded in the distance. His forehead thumped against the closed bathroom door and he released a deep breath when he heard his outer door close again. 

Figuring he should go ahead and take advantage of the currently running shower, Tony quickly undressed and went through the motions. As he finished, he briefly considered packing a bag but immediately dismissed the idea. He only had to be gone for the weekend and it wasn’t like he couldn’t just buy whatever he needed. And he wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. 

When he opened the door, his gaze caught on the grilled cheese sandwich sitting on a paper plate (where had he even found paper plates?) with a side of carrots and celery sticks and a large glass of water. His heart squeezed in his chest and his eyes clenched shut at the simple but kind gesture, so like Peter. 

He stood over the plate for a minute before finally grabbing the sandwich and shoving it in his mouth as he made his way out. 

“Alright Fri, now what is Peter doing? And just so I’m explicit here, the goal is to avoid him , so you maybe wanna help me out a bit?” Tony bit out before leaving his suite. 

“Yes, sir. Mr. Parker is currently eating in the kitchen but will be finishing up soon.” Friday responded. At least one good side of effect of the less intuitive AI was that she wasn’t going to ask needling questions and tell Tony he was being ridiculous. Small victories. 

After successfully sneaking to the hangar, he aborted his original plan to take the jet since Peter would need that to get home. Guess he’d have to settle for a road trip. 

.

Several hours later found Tony at a casino in Atlantic City. 

The money, the new clothes, and the fawning admiration of faceless men and women didn’t seem to hold the same appeal as they did fifteen years ago. 

But hey, booze is booze at least, which helped smooth the way. 

By midnight, he’d ignored four calls from Peter. He’d also drank enough to convince himself he didn’t care. If it was actually an emergency, Friday would let him know. Not that he was in any shape to do anything about it if there was one, except as a barely functioning phone tree.

The cheering around him implied that he’d just won big, which earned him a large pair of breasts pressed close to his side.  He glanced over to see a big grin, long lashes framing caramel-colored eyes, and unruly brown curls. He could work with that.  He swept his arms around her and she melted into his embrace with a giggle.

By the time he and the brunette bombshell had retired to his room, Tony had ignored yet another two calls from Peter.  He heard the text tone trill as he fell onto the plush hotel mattress with his new friend. He ignored it in favor of paying special attention to the long, pale neck beneath his lips.  It remained silent for the next 30 minutes that he was conscious before passing out.

.

Tony opened his eyes and struggled to focus on the strange ceiling above him, wondering what had woken him because he sure as hell didn’t just wake up naturally.  He looked around blearily, gaze falling on the bare back and messy hair two feet away from him in bed. Didn’t look like she was inclined to be up and about either.

He drew in a deep breath and let it out in a low groan, hands scrubbing down his face.  As his hands fell away, his eyes focused on the rest of the room and he shot upright, nearly calling one of his gauntlets into being when he noticed a figure standing at the foot of the bed.

“What the everloving fuck?” he shouted hoarsely, belatedly recognizing the intruder as one Peter Parker.

“You know, it would have been shockingly easy to kill you in the past ten minutes that I’ve been trying to wake you if that’s what you were concerned about,” Peter said casually, hands burrowing into the pockets of his jeans.

Tony threw a glare in his direction as he flopped back onto the bed and pulled a pillow on top of his head.  If I can’t see you, you can’t see me , he thought childishly.

Unfortunately, his disappearing act was lost on Peter.  “Care to tell me what was so urgent that you suddenly had to disappear without notice and ignore all my calls?”

Tony shrugged.  “Was bored. Care to tell me why the hell you’re here?” he muttered into the mattress.

“I would have, if you’d answered my calls.  Or at least read my texts.” Peter’s voice was deceptively mild, despite the topic at hand.

“Didn’t notice.  Who even knows where my phone’s been all night?”  Tony said with feigned nonchalance even as his heart continued to pound.

There was a rustling of fabric as Peter said, “Right here, in your pants pocket, which I assume you had on your person until fairly recently since you are spectacularly drunk, which was probably accomplished by a long bout of partying before falling into bed with this respectable young lady.”

Tony turned to said respectable young lady, who had been roused by the conversation, and gave her a strained smile.  “Hey sweetheart, would you mind giving us a minute?” He noticed Peter’s face spasm briefly at this request, but the woman quickly gathered her clothes and left.

Tony sighed again as he flipped back over to stare at the ceiling.  “And how do you know that I’m ‘spectacularly drunk,’ Mr. Parker?” he inquired, forming lazy air quotes.

“Friday told me,” Peter said simply.

“Snitch bitch,” Tony mumbled, before the implication sank in.  “Wait, why would she tell you? I told her to ice you out,” he admitted unthinkingly.

Peter’s casual facade cracked a bit at this, his lips thinning almost to the point of disappearing.  “Nice. Very mature of you, Mr. Stark.” He shook his head to himself before answering the question. “I’ve reestablished some of her dormant protocols.”

“And who the hell gave you that authority?”

“It’s for your own safety and you had previously established them, so it was pretty easy to work around the permissions issue.”

Tony’s brow furrowed. “But those protocols shouldn’t work without the BAC chip, which I distinctly remember...removing.”

“Yeah, well I un-removed it, in a spot that you won’t be able to access without some assistance, which your AIs are forbidden to provide.”

“And when was this?”

“Less than 24 hours ago, when you were, yet again, passed out drunk.”  Noticing Tony’s indignant expression that surely preceded some snarky comment, Peter continued.  “Hey, if you don’t like it, there’s an easy solution - quit drinking so damn much that you are semi-permanently in a vulnerable, easily-manipulated state.  I thought you were some kind of control freak,” Peter said with a shrug. Though his voice was still mild, his eyes were flinty and cold with fury, knowing he was hitting where it hurt.

“So you want me to just sit around watching a couple of stupid, necking college boys all weekend?” Tony lashed out with a scoff, throwing Peter’s words from the day before right back at him.  “I’ve got better things to do, kid.”

Tony’s heart seized when he saw Peter’s eyes shutter and his jaw clench tight.  “Well then you could have just said something, you know that. Don’t try to blame this on me - I gave you every opportunity to get rid of me.”

Tony’s eyes slammed shut for a long moment.  How ready Peter was to believe that was what he wanted.

When Tony continued to remain silent, Peter tsked.  “So this is your something better to do? Acting like you’re still 21?  Pretending this makes you feel better?”

Tony folded his arms under his head in a gesture of careless ease.  “Who says I’m pretending?”

“Well if that’s true, you’re even more screwed up than I thought,” Peter said quietly.

Kid, you have no idea , Tony thought.

After another long, tense silence, Tony finally said, “So this is why you came here?  To scold me?”

“Yes Tony, that’s exactly why I came all the way here and scaled 40 stories on the outside of a building, to scold you.”  He shook his head again in frustration. “Whatever. Go back to all your ‘fun.’ Just...please be careful. And come home soon.  I’ll be leaving as soon as I get my things when I get back, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with me.”

By the time Tony dredged up the courage to drag his gaze back up, Peter was gone.  He felt like his rib cage might just cave in under the weight of his guilt.

It only got worse when he realized that was the first time Peter had ever called him by his name.

.

Tony wallowed in self pity for another hour before rolling out of bed with a sigh. Peter was right - this wasn’t making him feel any better, so there really wasn’t a point in sticking around. He’d be more comfortable wallowing in the comfort of his own home. 

He noticed that his watch was missing after he’d finished packing. Probably stolen by that woman. Figures. At least it wasn’t one of his nano particle housings. 

His phone rang as he was driving back.

"Rhodey, baby, talk to me!  Tell me something good."

"Wanna tell me why the tabloids are blowing up about the playboy persona making an explosive reappearance in Atlantic City last night?" Rhodey asked dryly.

"You know, just had to get out for a while, feel the smoky casino breeze in my hair," Tony replied blithely.

"Mmhmm.  Right.  And the, completely unrelated I'm sure, sighting of SpiderMan scaling the very same building?"

Tony grunted.  "It would appear that I am surrounded by people who care so much about me that I can't get a single moment to myself."

"What an awful problem to have," Rhodey drawled.

When Tony didn't respond, Rhodey continued.  "So, how is that, uh, situation going?"

"What? My apparently very public backslide into bad habits isn't answer enough?" Sarcasm, the one coping mechanism that hadn't failed him yet.

Rhodey's deep sigh gusted loudly through the car's speakers.  "Tony, seriously - do you want me to come down there?  We can just take a break from everything, hang out and eat a lot of food and watch bad TV.  I'll even let you go all mad scientist on my legs like you've been wanting lately."

Tony seriously considered it before shaking his head.  "No, I think I need to work through this on my own for a while," he said seriously.  "And you need to spend time with your new bae." ("Oh my God, please do not call her that.") "I will definitely be taking you up on the offer to work on those atrociously outdated things you call legs though."

He could hear Rhodey's eyes rolling through the phone, he knew it.  "Yeah, okay, we'll see about that.  What are you doing now, anyway?  Still in Jersey?"

"For the next..." Tony checked his location. "...15 minutes, yep.  Currently on the way back home."

"You realize that you're finally too old for all that shit?"

"Ouch, Rhodey bear.  I mean, yes, but still.  Can't you be a bit more gentle?  My ancient, brittle soul can't handle the abuse," Tony pouted.

Rhodey chuckled.  "We both know tough love is your love language.  For real though, if you need anything then just give me a call - I'll be there for you as soon as you admit you need me."

Tony felt his chest loosen and his heart warm as a soft smile stole across his face.  "Of course, dear heart.  Now off with you so that I can drive to sad songs and wallow in peace, damn it."

"Wouldn't want to stand in the way of that.  Hey, I love you, man," Rhodey said.

"Love you too, buddy," Tony responded before ending the call and feeling that warmth slowly fade away into the dark void behind his heart.

.

When he arrived back at the compound, he sat in his car in the garage, hands wrapped white-knuckle tight around the steering wheel as he took deep breaths. 

“Hey Fri, the kid still here?” 

“No, sir. Mr. Parker exited the premises 43 minutes ago.  His guest left several hours before that.” 

Tony blew out his breath in a noisy gust. He’d eventually have to talk to Peter about what happened, clear up the misunderstanding that he didn’t want him around. But that felt like a Herculean task at the moment, too much to even think about. Luckily, Tony Stark was a pro at avoidance. 

Instead, he chose to focus on how the hell Peter had reactivated the dormant S.L.I.P protocol.

Once he got back to his room, he flopped backwards on the bed, calling out, “Friday, play back what the hell Parker’s been doing this weekend, starting with the most recent activity.”

A holoscreen appeared in front of him, showing Peter sitting on his bed looking miserable.  Tony quickly swiped it away, ignoring the sharp pang in his chest. “Let’s respect at least a little bit of privacy, yeah?  Only show me when he’s in a common area or one of my areas.”

Without further comment, Friday brought up another clip, projecting Peter and Harry mid conversation in the kitchen. 

“Why do you let Tony treat you like that?” Harry was asking, sounding irritated as he peeled a sticker off an apple.

“Treat me like what?” Peter responded absently, looking through the fridge. 

“Like you’re...his pet or something. It’s weird,” Harry said, his lip curling. 

Peter shut the fridge and turned towards Harry. “Excuse me, what?”

“Oh come on. Don’t pretend like you haven’t noticed.”  Harry rolled his eyes and took a bite of his apple before continuing.  “The pet names, the way he spoils you, the touching - good God, the touching. It’s damn near inappropriate.”

Peter was gaping. “He’s my mentor and we’ve...been through a lot together. There’s nothing inappropriate about it at all!” 

Tony stroked his reconstructed breastbone to try to ease the pressure building behind it as he felt the burn of shame roiling in his gut. 

Harry snorted. “Peter. You can’t be serious. He’s constantly looking at me like I stole something from him, like he’s challenging me.”

“Well he doesn’t like you. And frankly, at this moment, I don’t exactly blame him,” Peter shot back with a glare. 

“Of course you wouldn’t. When would you ever blame your precious Tony Stark?”

“What does it even matter to you?  Are you jealous or something?”

“Of course I’m jealous,” Harry scoffed.  “I really like you, Peter. And it sucks knowing that with a snap of his fingers, he could take you away from me.”

“It’s really not like that,” Peter insisted desperately.  “I just...it’s hard to explain. But it’s not like that, I swear.”

“But if it could be, if he decided he wanted you like that, would you say no?”

“I- I- I mean, he’s got some issues and he’s maybe not the, uh, poster child for healthy relationships, but he doesn’t want me like that.  I’m just a kid to him, his protege.” Tony winced. At least he’d managed to fool one person.

Harry smiled sadly.  “You never said no, Peter.”

“Of course I’d say no- I mean what are the odds anyway?  And honestly I’ve never really thought about it, like that’s so crazy, and…” Peter trailed off as he quickly turned back to the fridge, rummaging aimlessly.  “Man, I really am starving. You want something? There’s, uh, strawberries, leftover pizza, stuff for some...really gross smoothies, and-”

“Peter,” Harry broke in, cutting across his nervous rambling.  “If you had to choose between me and him, who would you choose?”

Peter finally stopped even pretending like he was doing anything else.  “You know, that’s a really shitty thing to ask. Why should I ever have to choose?  You and he fill completely different roles in my life. And if you’re going to ask me to make an ultimatum like that, then that makes the choice pretty damn easy.”

Harry sighed roughly.  “Fine, you’re right, that wasn’t cool.  And if I really believed that we fulfilled completely different roles in your life then maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I don’t think that’s really true.  I feel like he’s your primary relationship - you’re just using me to fill in the gaps.”

“Come on, Harry, that’s not true.  You’re not like a replacement or anything, I really do care about you.”

“I know you do, Peter.  But can you honestly tell me that if Stark wanted to be in a romantic relationship with you, that he wanted to step into that final remaining role as well, that you wouldn’t say yes?”

Tony moved to close the feed, not needing to hear Peter’s immediate rejection.  He may be a bit of a masochist, but even he had his limits. Or so he thought. But as the silence continued for a long awkward moment, he found he couldn’t close it, waiting with baited breath. 

Peter blinked, mouth opening and closing several times.  “I- I- uh….” Tony’s blood was singing through his veins, his heart pounding louder in his ears the longer there was no ‘no’.  God, he should not be listening to this. This was actually probably worse than the rejection he’d been anticipating. That demon inside was writhing in his belly, heating him up from the inside out, ready to devour that sweet boy. 

Harry’s hands balled into fists and the muscle in his jaw tightened and jumped before he blew out a long breath, shoulders slumping with released tension.  “I think that’s answer enough.”

Peter scrambled over to Harry, grabbing one of his hands in both of his.  “What does that mean? Are you breaking up with me? Because I can’t give you an immediate answer to some crazy, hypothetical situation that has zero chance of happening?  That’s not fair,” he said earnestly.

“Not fair?  Peter, I expect that the person I’m dating would have a pretty immediate answer ready when asking if they would drop me for someone else if they became an option.  Anything less than a definite ‘no’ isn’t fair to me .  I deserve more than that!”

Peter’s gaze dropped and his cheeks flushed.  “Of course, you’re right. I’m-” Peter’s text alert went off and he froze momentarily before forcing himself to relax.  

Harry’s eyes narrowed.  “It’s been him you’ve been texting and calling all night, isn’t it?  Not Ned like you said?”

“Not exactly,” Peter hedged.

Harry wrenched his hand back.  “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” he muttered.

“No, I’m sorry, I just- it’s...hard to explain,” Peter finished lamely, sounding like a broken record.  Tony’s heart ached as he watched Peter’s conflicted expression, knowing Peter was keeping quiet for his sake, hiding the notifications of Tony's drunken escapades.

“Of course it is.  Well here’s something that’s easy to explain - let’s take a break.  You can figure out what the hell it is you want then maybe we can talk about it.  I don’t even know,” Harry said, shaking his head.  

“No, Harry, please-” Peter started, but Harry held up a hand to cut him off.

“Not right now, Peter, please.  I just, I need some time to myself.  I’m going to call an Uber and head out.”

“You don’t need to do that - the jet is big enough to have your own space, I won’t bother you.  We can pack up and head out now.”

Harry looked at him for a few long moments before replying.  “I’d actually rather not ride in Stark’s plane right now.” Peter reached out and grabbed his arm.  

“Harry, I really am sorry,” he murmured.

“Do you even know what for?” Harry asked quietly.

Peter was silent for a beat too long.  Harry pulled away and continued down the hall to pack up.

Peter crashed down onto his elbows on the counter, gripping his hair harshly.  “Way to go, Parker.”

Tony watched him wallow for a few minutes before checking his phone.  Peter started pacing back and forth then stopped abruptly as he apparently came to a decision and headed purposefully out of the room.  Looking at the time stamp, he’d probably just decided to come after Tony.

Tony paused the footage with a sigh, his self-righteous anger sufficiently doused.  He was surprisingly unhappy with this turn of events, despite it being exactly what he’d hoped for.  He’d wanted Peter to get rid of that guy, but not at Peter’s expense. And essentially by Tony’s own hand.  He had underestimated his ability to fuck up other peoples’ lives indirectly.

Well, he still wanted answers.  “Alright Fri, let’s work our way back.  Next clip.”

He only halfway paid attention as he skimmed through several more videos of Peter in the last 24 hours, his mind racing as he considered the conversation he’d overheard.  This was exactly the kind of information he did not need to have.  He could feel a yawning pit of greedy longing open in his core, warring with the despair in his heart at the thought of how he would inevitably destroy Peter’s life.  He knew it was only a matter of time now before he gobbled up Peter completely, leaving him nothing that wasn’t stamped over with Tony Stark’s name.

His attention snapped back as he noticed Peter in the lab by himself the previous night.  He wondered what excuse he’d given Harry.

“Volume up, Friday.”

Peter was talking to Friday in the lab.  “Hey Friday, how are you tonight?”

“Quite well, Peter, thank you.  And you?” the AI responded politely.

Peter’s smile was twisted and wry.  “Been better, a little stressed out.  Worried about Mr. Stark.”

“I see.  Is there anything I can do to help?” Friday asked.

“Maybe?  Didn’t Mr. Stark used to have some kind of protocol in place to help with his drinking?  What ever happened to that?”

“Yes, the S.L.I.P. protocol, standing for Sobriety Lost Its Priority.  It is designed to call emergency contacts when Mr. Stark’s drinking has surpassed casual social levels.  It requires the presence of a subdermal BAC chip in order to be activated, which Mr. Stark has removed.” Friday dutifully reported.  Traitor, Tony thought, glaring at the screen.

Squinting in thought, Peter asked, “So do you think you could make me another one?  And set me as his emergency contact? I promise not to interfere unless I really think he’s in trouble.”

Friday was quiet for a moment before replying, “Yes.  Since you have unlimited lab access and appear to have the boss’s best interests at heart, I believe this falls under the ‘For Your Own Damn Good’ protocol.”

“Yes!” Peter exclaimed with an excited fist pump.

Tony continued to watch with a mounting sense of betrayal as Friday manufactured the chip then explained to Peter how to insert it.  “What the hell? How did something I created with my own two hands and all the love in my shriveled little heart become such a backstabbing bitch?”

“As I told Mr. Parker, I believed this fell under the-”

“Shut it, Johnny 5.  Not interested.”

As Peter finished plotting with his AI, it occurred to Tony that he’d missed something.  “Hold the phone. When did he insert the damn chip? How did I miss this?”

He quickly scanned the subsequent footage, watching Peter’s interactions with him more closely.  There. When Peter had come to check on him in the morning and found him dead to the world in his living quarters.  He’d kind of averted his eyes and skipped past the part where Peter looked epically disappointed before picking him up and putting him in bed. He forced himself to watch through it now.

“That sneaky little shit,” Tony muttered, watching Peter inject the chip in the middle of Tony’s back before settling him under the covers.  That explained the soreness in his back that morning.  Well, probably a combination of that and drunken slouching, who knows.  He paused in the middle of dismissing the holoscreen when he noticed Peter hesitate by his bedside before running his fingers tenderly through Tony’s hair, a pained expression on his face.  

“I’m sorry, Tony,” he whispered.

His mouth dry, Tony ran his own fingers through his hair, pretending he could remember how it felt.  For as much as Tony touched Peter, it was rare for Peter to do the same outside of hugs.  

The touch combined with the intense care and attention focused on him made Tony’s head spin, just from watching it secondhand.  It was almost enough to make him want to kick the drink again, just so he wouldn’t miss something like this again.

As he finally dismissed the holoscreen, he went to stand only to realize that he was hard.  God, he was messed up. But honestly, was anyone even surprised at this point?

Chapter Text

Tony jerked awake, eyes blearily focusing on his surroundings. He was...on the floor in the bathroom. Wonderful. He brought his hands up to grab onto the sink and haul himself up. They were shaking. 

He looked in the mirror, bleary-eyed, images of the dream he’d just woken up from - or was it a nightmare? - invading his thoughts.  His head told him it should be a nightmare but his traitorous cock was a bit more honest, pulsing at the recollection of fading snippets of his mind’s creation: tousled dark hair falling over half-lidded eyes; soft mouth falling open with a quiet, needy moan pushing its way out of the column of delicate skin marked with imprints of Tony’s teeth; seemingly miles of pale skin stretched over shifting, straining muscles undulating in Tony’s lap.

His hand twitched, wanting desperately to dive into those flashes of Dream Peter, to satisfy the aching desire that had been plaguing him from the second he’d jerked awake.   

He squeezed his eyes shut and dug his knuckles into them harshly, as if that would make the images go away.  He soon reopened them to glare at his reflection once again. What the fuck was wrong with him? This was Peter Parker.  The sweet, unbearably awkward kid that he had watched grow up. It didn’t matter that he was no longer legally a child anymore - that was the least of his worries at this point.  There was an infinitely long list of reasons that this was bad-unhealthy-wrong. Reasons that he’d been pummeling his brain with constantly, trying to get it to communicate to the rest of him that this was A Bad Idea.

But since overhearing that stupid argument between Peter and Harry fucking Osborn, it was like the slow burn simmering in his core had flared into a raging inferno, just at the mere possibility that Peter might be receptive to the things that Tony finally had to admit to himself that he wanted from Peter.  That he shouldn’t want. That he maybe could have resisted. But all it took was a single inkling of hope to crush any semblance of self-control (not that he had much to start with).

Tony barely managed to stumble over to the toilet before heaving, emptying the almost entirely liquid contents of his stomach. He didn’t bother to analyze whether it was from the alcohol or his disgust with himself. It was all fruit of the same poisonous tree anyway. 

.

The following few weeks had crawled by achingly slowly.  Peter kept his distance - not texting, calling, or coming by the lab.  Tony wasn’t surprised.

The longer Peter stayed away, the further Tony slid into the gaping black hole behind his heart.  Some days it felt like he was drowning, choking on the longing - not even for his body, but just his presence, his laugh, his snarky quips, just...Peter.  The admiration for him as a person came long before any of the carnal aspects and was so much stronger, which made the whole disgusting thing at least slightly more bearable.

Having passed out on the couch in the lab, Tony was harshly jolted awake with what felt like a tidal wave of ice.  Before he was aware of what had happened, he was crouched on the floor next to the couch, his gauntlet activated and pointed towards what he was fairly sure was the direction of the threat as the rest of his nanite suit quickly finished phasing across his body.

His eyes finally focused as he heard a snort, seeing Peter standing above him looking massively unimpressed.

Tony had been thinking that when (if) he finally saw Peter again, he’d be prepared to, best case scenario, wrap him in a hug that never ended or, worst case, drop to his knees and grovel for forgiveness.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening now. Now, he felt a disproportional haze of fury come over him.

“Yeah, you’re real funny.  Fuck off, Wunderkind,” Tony muttered with a reproachful glare, heart pounding and chest heaving as he collapsed on the floor with his back against the couch and dismissed the suit.

“Well at least you noticed the possible threat and reacted appropriately this time,” Peter drawled.

“Oh, so is that what this is?  A random test of preparedness? Thanks, glad you’re so concerned about my ability to handle a sudden attack from a...water bottle?  Was that all that was?” he asked incredulously, seeing the empty bottle hanging in Peter’s slack grip, dripping slowly onto the floor.  Tony was sure it had been at least a full bucket of water, probably from glaciers in the Arctic Circle. Anyway, distractions aside, he was still pissed.

Peter shrugged, setting the water bottle on the nearby table.  “Not initially but it’s not my fault you’re passed out drunk again at…” he made a show of looking at his watch. Tony was slightly gratified to see that it was still the StarkWatch he’d given him a few months ago. “2:30 in the afternoon.”

Tony heaved himself to his feet and pressed into Peter’s space.  “Well joke’s on you, buddy,” he shot back, shoving Peter in the chest.  “This is just regular, plain old exhaustion. No alcohol included! Well, that’s not true, I think I had a drink, singular, sometime yesterday.  Or this morning? I don’t know what time it was. Point is! Not drunk,” he proclaimed, stepping back and gesturing at himself.

Peter started a slow clap. “Congratulations, Master Stark,” he said sardonically, with a flashy bow. “Truly, that is quite an accomplishment.”

Tony’s head was pounding with anger and leftover adrenaline, his vision going white at the edges. 

“You little shit,” he hissed. “If you had any idea-“ he cut himself off with a glare, unwilling to reveal just how low he’d been recently. 

Seeing Peter’s jaw clench just ratcheted up his anger. He was about to lash out again when Peter let out a harsh exhale of breath. 

“‘If I had any idea?’ Have you already forgotten? I’ve known every time you’ve drunk yourself into a coma.  You’ve made it very clear that you don’t want me bothering you on a personal level, but I’m getting tired of all the friendly reminders from Friday that you’re constantly drinking yourself stupid.” Peter said stiffly, arms crossed so tightly over his chest that Tony could see the muscles in his forearms bulging, tendons jumping.

The thing was, Tony had forgotten.  Shit. So not only had he been a coward by continuing to avoid his massive fuck ups, he’d also been continuously adding to Peter’s burden.  “Well no one asked you to invade my privacy and personal space to keep tabs on me,” Tony said sullenly, unwilling to give up his animosity just yet.

“Oh, my God!” Peter shouted, throwing his hands up.  “Are you serious right now? You can’t be-you are.” He shoved his hand through his hair, turning away from him briefly only to spin right back with an incredulous expression.  “Hello? That’s, like, your specialty .  Invasion of privacy?  Of personal space?  Illegal, unnecessary, unwanted surveillance?  Is this sounding at all familiar to you?”

Ah.  Unfortunately, yes.  Not that he was going to admit it.  “Okay, fine, I’m terrible with boundaries and have massive issues.  Not news to pretty much anyone on the planet. Still doesn’t explain what the hell you’re doing here.”

Peter’s eyes darted away as he glared off to the side, jaw working.  After several moments of silence (in which Tony was just about dying to smart off but held his tongue), Peter finally shook his head.  “Just forget it. Harry thought it might be a good idea if I come talk to you and...never mind. It doesn’t matter, this was all just a mistake and you obviously don’t want me here so-”

“Hang on, Harry?  Osborn?” Tony asked.

Peter’s expression of frustration finally dropped for one of confusion.  “Um, yes? My boyfriend?  Seriously, have you completely scrambled your brain?”

“But I thought he broke up with you?” Tony pushed, mouth opening before he could think better of it.  

“Broke up with me?  How-?” Peter gaped.  Tony's brain was racing, trying to think of a plausible excuse but Peter beat him to the punch. His expression cleared with realization and he let out a hollow laugh.  “Of course. Speaking of glaring invasions of privacy! So do you make a habit of listening to every conversation I have?  Is nothing sacred to you?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, was I supposed to find out you’d snuck yourself into one of my personal protocols and not try to figure out how you got around my security?” Tony rallied, still grasping desperately at his anger; if that dissipated, the guilt would probably eat him alive.

“Okay, fine, I deserved that.  But did you think that had happened sometime during the very personal conversation I was having with my boyfriend?  Because that is the only possible reason you could have that would even kind of justify that.” Peter spat, hand slashing through the air.

Tony finally dropped his gaze.  “No. I was just- I- ugh.  Fine.  No...I’m...I'm sorry, Peter. You’re right, I way overstepped my bounds here and I was wrong and I’m sorry.”  If only Peter knew just how sorry he was, about so many things.

There was a long tense silence, each second feeling like an eternity to Tony as the self-reproach settled like a yoke upon his shoulders, weighing him down until he felt like one wrong step would send him crashing through the floor below him.

Peter exhaled slowly, the tension seeping from his shoulders as he also let go of his pent up hostility.  “I just...I don’t know what to do anymore,” Peter said quietly.

“About what, Pete?  What can I do to help?  You know I’d do anything to help you,” Tony blurted, jolting in Peter’s direction.  He stopped at the last second, hovering awkwardly as he realized he may not be welcome in Peter’s space.

Peter looked balefully at him for a long moment before his chin gave a slight wobble and he buried his face in Tony’s shoulder, grabbing him up in a borderline aggressive hug.

Tony’s breath caught in his throat, his arms coming up slowly before returning the embrace with equal force.  “Oh, sweetheart,” he murmured, his lips pressing softly into Peter’s hair over and over. “What’s got you so twisted up?”

“Do you really need to ask me that?” Peter asked, voice muffled into Tony’s shirt.

“Well, while I do have many, many talents, mind reading is not one of them, unfortunately,” Tony drawled, one hand trailing down Peter’s back to settle against his hip, pushing him back just slightly to try to meet his eyes.  He didn’t miss the way Peter shuddered at his touch, his head lolling to the side as he breathed into Tony’s neck. Tony’s heart raced in response, his fingers spasming. Peter’s hips gave the tiniest hitch, his mouth falling open before he finally lifted his head.

“It’s you.  You have to know that it’s you,” Peter said desperately, his eyes darting back and forth between Tony’s.  “And I have no idea what you want from me.” Tony remained silent, unable to answer the implied question.

Peter took a deep breath, dropping his arms from around Tony and taking a small step back within Tony's grasp before continuing.  “I thought we had a great relationship - mentor/mentee, colleagues, more than I ever could have dreamed of. Then something changed and I don’t understand.  I thought we were maybe becoming friends? But then you started shutting me out and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Did you just change your mind? Or was I smothering you?  If you needed space, all you had to do was say so; I know I can be a little too much sometimes.”

Tony finally spoke up.  “Kid, does this really seem to you like I need space from you?” he asked dryly, eyebrow raised and looking down pointedly where he still held Peter close.

Peter flushed.  “Well, not literally.  I know you have no problem with people being actually in your personal space,” he babbled, waving his arms around them to indicate said space and Tony dropped his own hands so that Peter could continue his wild gesticulating.  “I mean, sometimes that’s part of the problem? You’re always touching me, which is great! I mean, not like in a weird way, I get that it’s just a personal quirk of yours, that I’m not special or something. But that has to mean you at least kind of like me in some way, right?  But then it seemed like maybe you were just humoring me? Like, the mixed signals are driving me crazy, Mr. Stark,” he finished, eyes eventually coming back up to meet Tony’s, a bit bashful.

Tony blinked at him.  “Um, okay. That was a lot.  Just give me a sec.”

Peter remained quiet, fidgeting.  Drawing a deep breath, Tony thought it was about time to take a page out of Peter’s book - be brave, even if it’s potentially embarrassing or scary.  Or, you know, life-shattering.

“First of all, you way underestimate your own value and, for that matter, my paranoia.  Do you really think I let just anyone into my personal space on a regular basis? Yes, I’m known for a hand to the shoulder, hugs, and being a bit more physical than most people in public.  But that's actually a fantastic defense mechanism.  Physicality can be incredibly confusing and invasive when used properly; it can put others off their game and keeps me in control as the initiator. Those that have a genuine invitation into my unguarded personal space are very, very rare.  As in, there are 3 - Pepper, Rhodey, and you. So yes, I think you could at least call us friends.”

Peter’s brow furrowed, as if this was way beyond his comprehension.  “I-uh-me?” he stammered, his voice going squeaky as he pointed to himself.

Tony rolled his eyes.  “Yes, you. Peter Benjamin Parker.  Kid, I know I’ve been a right asshole lately, but if I’d gotten so bad that you doubt that we could even be friends then I was worse than I thought.”

“You- um, you said at least friends? Does that mean that there’s another option?”

Tony shrugged, not quite making eye contact. “That’s entirely up to you, kid.”

“Well, not really, Mr. Stark. You know, ‘it takes two to tango’ and all that jazz,” Peter said, arms shimmying slightly. 

Tony’s flat stare was followed up with “I can’t believe you just said that. You been talking to Capsicle lately? That sounds like his brand of lame.”

“Deflecting,” Peter accused, pointing at Tony. 

Tony sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Fine. But it really is up to you, Pete. I’ll...I’ll take whatever you give me.” There. Total, brutal honesty. Tony was surprised Friday hadn’t interrupted this little heart-to-heart to express concern about his heart and the way it was about to pound right out of his chest. 

Peter’s brow furrowed. “No, that’s not how this works Mr. Stark. You deserve to have nice things, you know.” When Tony opened his mouth to reply, Peter quickly interrupted. “You know I don’t mean actual, material things. You obviously have plenty of that.”

Tony snorted. “Kid, there’s nothing ‘nice’ about the things I want.”

Peter flushed, swallowing noisily, but he didn’t back down. “So, all you want from me is a quick, dirty fuck?”

Ears roaring, Tony dimly heard himself respond. “Jesus, kid. Of course not. I mean, I’m not saying I’d pass on it if you were offering because damn, look at you. But - God, why is this happening?” Tony questioned, glaring dolefully at the ceiling as his brain finally caught up with his mouth. 

Peter edged closer, lips parted. “But?” He urged softly. 

“But I want everything from you, Pete. I want to be the only one that gets the profound privilege of touching you, any way I want. I want to be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about before going to bed. I want to be the one that you go to with all your problems. I want to give you everything you’ve ever wanted and then some.  I want your whole damn world to revolve around me,” Tony said fervently, driven on by Peter’s blown pupils, his audibly labored breathing, as he closed the distance between them. 

Peter’s hand slid up Tony’s arm to rest on his bicep. That single point of contact had his cock jumping to attention. “You mean like yours revolves around me?” Peter breathed. 

“God, you have no idea,” Tony said roughly, his hands shaking as he clawed desperately at the last shreds of his self-control.  

Peter swayed towards him before shaking his head slightly and stepping back.  “Right, right. We, uh, we need to talk.”

Tony groaned.  “Nothing good comes from that phrase, I swear.”  Looking at Peter, he saw the determination to get through this, so he sighed and fell back onto the couch.  “Fine,” he said, waving his hand in Peter’s direction. “Talk.”

Peter shifted from foot to foot.  “Well, I guess that works since I kind of practiced this?  But I honestly had no idea how you’d react or if I’d even be able to talk to you about this so I couldn’t imagine how you’d respond and it just ended up being really more of a monologue?” Peter rambled, cheeks reddening.

Tony’s lips twisted in a wry grin.  “By all means, monologue away. Channel that inner self-righteous villain that you were impersonating so well earlier.”  At Peter’s glare, Tony conceded, “Which I definitely deserved, of course.”

After another moment of irritated silence, Peter took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair before speaking.  “You’ve been my hero since I was like six years old, especially after you saved my life at that one Stark Expo, which was so freaking awesome and- not the point.  Sorry. You were a big part of why I was so interested in science and engineering, which led to me having the ability to develop the means to become Spiderman once I got my powers and got me to actually meet you in person.  I mean, when I walked into my apartment and saw you there the first time, it just blew my mind. Anyway, I got to know you as Iron Man, got to fight beside you. Then you kind of ghosted me, which, not gonna lie, was pretty disappointing to find out you were as flaky as you were portrayed in the media.  I remember thinking ‘Well, this is why they tell you to never meet your heroes.’ But you were still this super cool adult that I desperately wanted to notice me, like some awesome but perpetually disappointed step-dad.

“Then after the Vulture incident, you respected me and kind of took me under your wing, mentoring me, but I was so frustrated that you were still treating me like a kid.  Granted, I was a kid, and I think you were probably doing the right thing by the way, but it sure didn’t feel like it at the time. I almost hated you for a while. Then there was Thanos.  I realized how out-of-my-depth I was then, there on Titan, when it was too late. I was just a child playing at being a superhero. And after that first snap, when I-”

“Please, stop,” Tony said quietly, face twisted in pain.  “Not that.”

Peter started a little bit, almost having forgotten Tony was actually there, before he nodded, looking away.  They’d talked about that day exactly once before, for the sake of closure, and never again since. “Right, sorry.  Anyway, after everything with the infinity stones, I was so lost without you. I hadn’t realized just how much you had been taking care of me, protecting me from all the hardest parts of being a hero.  And I felt so young and stupid and helpless.  

“When you came back...it was like I could breathe again.  I was desperate to just lay my problems at your feet and have you deal with it all.  But when I saw you, exhausted and nearly paralyzed, I suddenly wanted to be your rock.  I remembered you were still a regular person underneath all that power - you didn’t have super strength, or healing, or anything like that.  But I did, and I wasn’t a kid anymore; I suddenly felt stronger than I ever had before. You let me help you when you were vulnerable, you brought me into your lab, into your home, your life.  Mostly grudgingly and with a lot of attitude, but you still accepted me when you could have easily just gotten rid of me.

“You’ve been my hero, my father-figure, my mentor, and getting to be your friend was more than I ever expected to happen.  But then Harry mentioned you and me as a romantic possibility like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And I was flabbergasted.  Like, I really thought there was no real world application for that word outside of books, but I was legit flabbergasted. I’d never even considered being anything more than friends.  Well, okay, so, there may have been a few, um, ideas. Because, come on, I was basically finishing going through puberty and my sexual realization when we met and you’re a good-looking man and like the epitome of power and-  Uhhhhhh, yeah. But those were fleeting moments. I never thought of anything like that for real. Because in what crazy universe would Tony Stark want to be involved with, let alone be sexually interested in, someone like me?  There may have been a few moments in the last several months where it crossed my mind more often than normal, but I was sure I was just reading into it too much.

“So once that became even a glimmer of a possibility I really had to think about it.  Because when it’s not just a fantasy of wild sex and romantic getaways, a potential relationship between us has a lot of problems.  There’s the power imbalance, the age gap, the fact that I’ve seen you as a father-figure until pretty recently, the public scrutinization, the judgment of our family and friends.  And that’s not even counting the fact that we probably wouldn’t even have to worry about any of that because our own personal issues are huge enough to ruin everything ten times over.  Like your drinking, my insecurity, your martyr tendencies, my tendency to cater to everyone else’s needs, both of our personal traumas and the unhealthy coping mechanisms we have, your ability to be an unbelievable asshole with major boundary issues, your-”

Tony held up his hand, finally interrupting.  “Okay, Pete, I get it. Believe me, I have been running a whole laundry list of these things, probably worse than yours, through my head pretty much constantly.”  He stood, walking over to the nearby workbench to fiddle absently with a socket wrench, his back to Peter and shoulders tense.

“But you still want it?” Peter asked softly.

Tony looked back over his shoulder.  “What?”

“Despite the fact that it may be the worst idea ever, you still want this?” Peter continued, closing that distance again and leaning his hip against the workbench, arms crossed lightly across his chest.

Tony swallowed audibly.  “What exactly is ‘this’?”

“Whatever you want it to be. Anything.”  Peter paused before adding deliberately, “Everything.”

The wrench clattered noisily onto the table.  “I-I can’t, Peter,” Tony insisted.

“Why?” Peter asked simply.

“Because I don’t want to hurt you!” Tony exploded.  “Being in a relationship with me isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Sure, you’ll have everything you could ever possibly want and there’ll be a lot of fun and, not to toot my own horn, some amazing sex, but - I’m obsessive, self-centered, needy, demanding, possessive, really bad with any kind of emotions and, frankly, I’m ridiculous and embarrassing.”

“I know all that,” Peter said with a small smile.  “I’ve seen you at - okay, maybe not your absolute worst from some of the things I've heard, but pretty dang low.  I know how awful you can be.”

“Gee, thanks,” Tony muttered sarcastically.

“But do you see how through all of this, with how much you want this, you’re number one concern is still not hurting me?”

“But-” Tony protested, but Peter interrupted him.

“But you will anyway, I know.  You’re right. And I’ll hurt you too.  And we’ll fight, probably a lot. Because we’re both stubborn assholes.  But we’ll figure it out. If you want to.”

“Harry?” Tony choked out, grasping at straws.

“Knows this is probably happening and is okay with it.  Well, not really, he’s gonna be kinda pissed. But he’s the one who told me to go figure this out and he genuinely meant it.  Because he’s right, he doesn’t deserve to be someone’s second choice.”

“God, I hate that guy,” Tony groused.  “Always trying to one up me.”

Peter’s eyebrows raised.  “How is that what you got out of this?”

“Being the ‘bigger man’,” Tony said, complete with air quotes.  “Gotta show you what a good person he is by making you find happiness at his own expense and having all this self-respect.”

“Oh yes, of course,” Peter drawled.  “I’m sure it’s just an angle he’s playing.  It’s a good thing no one else around here is set on self-sacrifice.”

“Right, but at least I’m sufficiently angsty about it.  No self-respect to be found here,” Tony quipped.

Peter rolled his eyes.  “So are you done deflecting or are you still freaking out?”

“Still freaking out,” Tony admitted with a rueful half-smile, eyes darting down to his quaking hands on the tabletop.

By the time Tony looked back up, Peter was crouched on the table in front of him, capturing his lips in a sudden kiss.  Tony’s body was much faster to respond than his sluggish brain, his hands coming up to grab Peter’s thighs, pulling them harshly down and apart so that Peter fell back to sit on the edge of the table, legs spread wide.  Half a step forward brought Tony’s body in to slot in between them as he pressed into the kiss. His hands flexed, feeling the firm muscles twitch beneath his fingers, before they slowly trailed up to settle on Peter’s hips.  Peter’s mouth fell open, letting out a soft mewling noise when Tony pulled back slightly to nip at his bottom lip instead of deepening the kiss. Peter’s legs clamped tight around Tony’s waist, surging up to continue the kiss himself. 

Tony groaned quietly as he fell forward with Peter’s movement, his hands flat on the table behind Peter, the sudden show of strength and desperation quickly bringing his cock to full hardness.  Regaining his balance, Tony brought his hands up to cradle Peter’s jaw, angling his head and pushing forward further to plunder Peter’s mouth. Peter went slack in his grip with a moan as Tony’s hands slid back into his hair.

The feel of those soft curls in his grip and Peter’s sweet submission at his touch had Tony’s blood roaring, his skin tingling, his muscles tensing.  He felt that inky blackness in his gut roiling violently, snaking up through his veins and aching to push, take, consume.

Tony shoved backwards suddenly, gasping.  When he looked down and saw Peter sitting loose-limbed on the table with glazed eyes, swollen lips, and disheveled hair, he had to look down at the floor and brace himself against the table, grip white-knuckle tight as he grounded himself against the cold metal beneath his fingers.

Peter sat up properly, licking his lips and scooting back further down the table.  “So, that was, uh, nice,” Peter said weakly. 

Tony snorted.  “Was it now?”

“Yes, it was.” Peter’s voice was stronger now, frowning as he fully noticed Tony’s current state.  “Just. Give me a moment to get my brain functioning properly then I’ll properly berate you for whatever bullshit you’ve got running through your head,” he said as he flopped backwards with an arm across his forehead.

Seeing how relaxed Peter was worked to slightly loosen the tight grip of panic around his heart so that he could breathe again.

“Tony.”  Peter’s head rolled to the side so he could look at him.  When Tony met his eyes, Peter smiled. “You know I wanted that, right?  Especially considering that I started it? Granted it was originally just supposed to be a quick shock to distract you and get you out of your head.  Although looking at you now, I’m thinking I might have failed at that.”

Despite Peter’s words, Tony still felt like he was bad-dirty-wrong.  “Oh, I was shocked alright. You may have wanted a kiss, but not what it was turning into.  You know I’m not exactly known for self-control so catching me off guard may not be in your best interest.”

Peter sighed and sat back up.  “Why? Because you might offend my delicate sensibilities?  I am an adult, I’m not a virgin, and in case you’ve forgotten, I’m about a hundred times stronger than you.  So if you do something I don’t like I can very easily stop you.”

“And there are many different kinds of power other than physical,” Tony countered.  “And I’m very aware of the fact that I possess the upper hand in pretty much every other aspect.  We all know my long list of flaws, but one of yours that you acknowledged yourself is your need to please.  Until I can trust that I’m not taking advantage of that, this will always feel a hundred different kinds of wrong.”

Peter was quiet, considering.  “Okay,” he said finally. “We’ll work up to it.  Although, for the record, that need to please is probably always going to be pretty apparent in bed and I kind of like it that way.”

Tony’s eyes darkened.  “I...can definitely live with that.  And I can make sure you know how pleased I am.  I know you always like to know when you’ve done a good job,” Tony murmured, fingers wrapping tightly around Peter’s wrist.

Peter’s eyelids fluttered and his breath stuttered.  

Tony groaned and lowered his head to rest on Peter’s shoulder for a moment.  “Kid, you’re gonna be the death of me.”

Peter laughed.  “Hey, adult here, remember?” he said, pointing at himself.

“Sorry, that’ll probably be a hard habit to break.”

Grinning, Peter shook his head.  “Nah, I was just kidding, I don’t mind it.  As long as I can still call you Mr. Stark sometimes,” he murmured coyly with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Tony snorted and shoved Peter’s face away.  “You think you’re real cute, don’t you?”

“Of course I am.  Also, I didn’t hear a no,” Peter gloated.

Tony looked back up at him, a crooked smirk on his face and gaze intense.  “You're right. That wasn’t a no.”

Peter’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed loudly.  “So. We’re really gonna do this then?”

Tony’s throat nearly closed when he finally committed, “Yes.  If you want to.”

“I want to,” Peter said softly.

And if the weight of guilt, panic, and self-loathing continued lightening every time Peter smiled at him like that, then fuck it.  He was Tony fucking Stark and nothing else was going to stand in the way of making this man happy.